Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places of western North America
and the Pacific through science, policy, education, and environmental law.

Center for Biological Diversity
Arizona Zoological Society
Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection
Friends of Cabeza Prieta
Land and Water Fund of the Rockies
Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter


Contact: Julie Sherman, Sierra Club (602) 254-0361
Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity
(520) 623-5252 x 306, 520-906-2159 cell
More Information: New Policy, Old Policy, Summary of New vs. Old Policy

Bush Administration Weakens Protections for New National Monuments

New Guidance could pave way for new power lines, off-road vehicle damage, and persecution of mountain lions and coyotes in BLM Monuments

Wholesale killing of coyotes and mountain lions and opening up protected areas to new power transmission lines could now be allowed in Arizona's five recently created national monuments under a new policy quietly issued last month by Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

The Sierra Club, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, the Center for Biological Diversity, Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, Arizona Zoological Society, and charge that Secretary Norton's new interim monument management policy could lead to serious ecological degradation in Agua Fria, Grand Canyon-Parashant, Ironwood Forest, Sonoran Desert, and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments. Conservationists only recently learned of the new policy, which was issued October 11 without any notice to the public.

Until now, the new monuments, which were designated within the last two years by President Clinton, were managed to allow only selective killing of individual predators. The Clinton era management guidelines also restricted off-road vehicles to established roads, and made it more difficult to approve new power lines through the monuments.

The monuments enjoy strong local support. 75 percent of Arizonans favored the creation of these new national monuments, according to a poll conducted by the Behavior Research Center earlier this year.

"Our new national monuments were created to protect some of our state's - and America's - most precious natural heritage," said Julie Sherman, monument protection organizer for the Sierra Club. "Secretary Norton's interim policy weakens protection for these monuments, and opens the door to destructive activities. This policy could be a first step in allowing the degradation of some of our nation's most beautiful wild lands."

"Secretary Norton offers only lip service to increasing local control in public lands management," said Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The problem is she doesn't talk with the majority of Arizonans who want the monuments conserved. She believes in local control only when it chiefly benefits industries who want to exploit the public lands for their private gain."

The new policy eases restrictions on rights-of-way, and could facilitate approval of numerous pending rights-of-way, including power line corridors through Sonoran Desert and Ironwood Forest National Monuments. 67 percent of Arizonans oppose power lines and energy development in National Monuments, according to the Behavior Research Center poll. "The proposed new energy developments would entail increased water use and construction of new facilities and roads, which would damage the scenic and biological integrity of these critical areas," says Sherman.

Increased killing of mountain lions and coyotes could drastically affect monument wildlife. "Indiscriminate predator control is neither ethical nor effective," says Mike Seidman, Arizona Zoological Society Conservation Coordinator. "Animals not causing problems are destroyed for no reason while critical ecological balances are disrupted. Indiscriminate predator control is widely recognized as a simplistic and wasteful solution to a complex situation; it attacks symptoms rather than causes and usually backfires due to compensatory responses of the predator."

The previous monument management policy mandated protection from off-road vehicle abuses. All vehicle travel off of designated roads was prohibited. The current policy burdens local monument managers with the responsibility of limiting ORV traffic on individual routes and washes, instead of explicitly prohibiting vehicular traffic in these cross-country regions.

"Cross-country off-road vehicle traffic is a major cause of destruction to our fragile desert soils. Cross-country travel displaces native wildlife, destroys indigenous plants, and increases erosion," notes Don Steuter, Conservation Chair for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter.

88 percent of Arizonans support limiting off-road vehicles to existing roads, according to the Behavior Research Center poll conducted earlier this year.

Rob Smith of the Sierra Club adds, "The BLM is still supposed to protect the monuments for the public. Secretary Norton's new policy only makes this task more difficult for them."

Public participation in the monument planning process is a critical component in achieving permanent monument protections. "Now it is more important than ever that the public express their support for our new national monuments, and help the Arizona BLM work to protect their ecological and cultural integrity and create meaningful, conservation-oriented management plans," says Sherman.


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